Meanign and characteristics of a Service

Researchers had focused on the prosperous history of the marketing discipline. Researchers has also made specific contribution of the fact that previous marketing literature ignored the marketing of services, and rather emphasized the importance of marketing of the physical goods. The following quote by Converse (1921) obviously supports that idea:

“Still the main function of business is to market goods. Accounting, banking, insurance, and transportation are only aids, very important aids it is true, to the production and marketing of goods” (p. vi).

Throughout the review of extensive lirtature on marketing on general services marketing, Fisk, Brown and Bitner (1993) explored that even up until the 1950’s and 1960’s services marketing was typically studied only by dissertation research. At that instant there was not only little acknowledgement of services marketing, but more astonishingly no understanding of the difference between physical goods and services. Johnson (1969) was the author of a dissertation titled “Are goods and services different?” That research was mainly accountable for flashing the goods versus services discussion that followed (Fisk, Brown and Bitner, 1993). Only after the American Marketing Association (1960) presented a definition of services did services articles begin to emerge in typical marketing journals. These articles required to challenge the Association’s service definition, which described services as:

“Activities, benefits or satisfactions which are offered for sale, or are provided in connection with the sale of goods. Examples are amusements, hotel service, electric service, transportation, the services of barber shops and beauty shops, repair and maintenance service, the work of credit rating bureaus. This list is merely illustrative and no attempt has been made to make it complete. The term also applies to various activities such as credit extension, advice and help of sales people, delivery, by which the seller serves the convenience of his customers.” (p. 21).

Regan (1963) supported this definition, although author’s key concern was not to discuss the definition, but to underline the creation of services that was taking place in the United States. Judd (1964) was one of the first authors to make an effort to redefining services. Author was critical of the services definition that had been presented due to it being simply descriptive, imperfect and too dependent on listed examples. Consequently, Rathmell (1966) broadly detailed the marketing characteristics of services, a task saw as crucial in light of the United State’s rapidly increasing services sector. The features author portrayed are still used today throughout many services marketing journals and textbooks (Fisk, Brown and Bitner, 1993). Authors have usually agreed upon the fact that a service contains of the following features: intangibility, inseparability, perishability and heterogeneity. These previous articles went a long way towards helping people to understand the multifaceted nature of marketing, and thus helped to eliminate the “marketing myopia” illustrated by Levitt (1960).

Meaning of Service

A service is a complex fact (Grönroos 1988:10). The word has various connotations, varying from a “personal service to a service as a product”. The range of the meaning of the concept can be even vital. Berry, Zeithaml and Parasuraman (1985:44) define services as “Performances, not objects”. Gaster and Squires (2003:7) partially have the same opinion with this definition, as they define services as “experience goods”. From these definitions it is clear that a service varies from goods, but it is not totally apparent what the nature of a service is. As the focal point of the current research is a service rather than goods, it would be preferable to utilize a definition that recognizes the necessary characteristics of a service for the purposes of the current research.

The characteristics of a service are recognized as intangibility (Boshoff 1990; Eiglier & Langeard 1977; Grönroos 1978; Schneider & White 2004; Upah & Fulton 1985), relative inseparability (Eiglier & Langeard 1977; Gaster & Squires 2003; Grönroos 1978; Schneider & White 2004), interdependence (Czepiel et al. 1985; Eiglier & Langeard 1977; Grönroos 1984; Haywood-Farmer 1988; Kelly, Donnelly & Skinner 1990; Speller & Ghobadian 1993a) and heterogeneity (Anthony & Govindarajan 2000; Eiglier & Langeard 1977; Gaster & Squires 2003; Haywood-Farmer 1988; Schneider & White 2004).

Characteristics of services


Probably the most basic and most often it is mentioned of the many characteristics of a service is the defining characteristic of intangibility (Boshoff 1990:37; Eiglier & Langeard 1977: 36; Grönroos 1978:591; Schneider & White 2004:6; Upah & Fulton 1985:255). This characteristic involves that true services cannot be “seen, touched, held, tasted, smelled or stored” – they have no physical demonstration (Schneider & White 2004:6; Speller & Ghobadian 1993a:2; Upah & Fulton 1985:255). At a theoretical level, this characteristic is complex to analyze because one cannot grasp it, except for in contrast to tangible goods. Consequently it is an improper definition because it only enlightens “what services is not, not what they are” (Eiglier & Langeard 1977:33). Upah and Fulton (1985:255) tried to deal with this shortfall. They define service intangibility as containing such things as “physical effort, thought processes, demeanor, appearance, and the use (but not ownership) of goods or facilities”.

Services are not all intangible. They may be observed as being arranged on a continuum of intangibility, with pure services (which have no tangible element) at the one end of the continuum, and pure goods (which have no intangible element) at the other end (Schneider & White 2004:7). The majority of services are in between the two ends of the intangibility continuum, for the reason that they have both tangible and intangible elements (Schneider & White 2004:7). Services provided in education sector are closer to pure services on the intangibility continuum.

Because of its intangibility, an accurate analysis of the quality of service is complicated (Eiglier & Langeard 1977:44; Haywood-Farmer 1988:20). Not only is it hard to measure service quality, but one cannot store a service. (Haywood-Farmer 1988:20). The possible outcomes of service failure might also be more brutal. When there is no physical product that can be repaired or returned when service quality is not up to the requirements, customers have a tendency to use the medium to influence their dissatisfaction (Eiglier & Langeard 1977:44).

Schneider and White (2004:6) said that pure services are basically procedures that are experiences which yield psychological experiences more than they yield physical belongings. In measuring a service, it should be taken into account that a psychological procedure is to be evaluated and not physical goods. This is the cause why the perceptions of the users of the service are attained. Furthermore, carefulness should be considered in analyzing the results, as it should be fix in mind that, even though the measurement might not be totally correct it may be the best sign of the service quality available from the users of the service.


Pure services, which are composed of a delivery experience, cannot be formed at one time and in one place and then be stored for later utilization anywhere else. A service can also not be “sent back” (Eiglier & Langeard 1977:37-39; Gaster & Squires 2003:97; Schneider & White 2004:7). So there is a relatively small time-gap between production and consumption, and “services are consumed as they are produced”(Grönroos 1978:591; Schneider & White 2004:7; Speller & Ghobadian 1993a:2).

The failure to construct services long before they are utilized means that the same problem occurred as with intangibility, because there is no way of creating a service, examining it for faults, and then providing it to a customer (Eiglier & Langeard 1977:37- 39; Grönroos 1978:591 Schneider & White 2004:7). The usefulness of a service cannot be certain in advance, just “assured” on the basis of the established skill of the provider at a previous “service encounter” (Gaster & Squires 2003:7).

Education has different types of service. The services of registering students, assessing the results of students and delivering lectures can technically be separated, as there could be internal processes to check for the incorrect registration of students, assessment of results and formulating quality oriented lectures. There could also be additional internal processes to ensure the correct assessment of the students. The students can also assess the accuracy of the service of assessment. On the other hand, when, for example, a student visits a registration office with a query or telephones call, the service could be regarded as inseparable, as the response of the staff and teachers cannot be checked for defects before any communication takes place between the two parties. In view of the fact that each of the services at educational institute can lie at a different point on the separability-inseparability continuum, in the evaluation of the services educational institutions offers, the different services should be measured separately.


One exceptional characteristic of services is that the customer is not simply the user of the service, but also playing their role in the production and delivery of the service (Czepiel et al. 1985:3; Eiglier & Langeard 1977:36; Grönroos 1984:37; Haywood-Farmer 1988:20; Kelly et al. 1990:1; Speller & Ghobadian 1993a:2). This may be referred to as “interdependence” that can be defined as “the effect interacting persons have on each other’s outcom es in a social relationship” (McCallum & Harrison 1985:35).

For a lot of services, the customer is required to participation in information or effort prior to the service transaction can be completed (Kelly et al. 1990:1). A service organization does not perform well except the role of the customer sufficiently fulfilled (Eiglier & Langeard 1977:37; Kelly et al. 1990:1; McCallum & Harrison 1985:35). Therefore, service efficiency and quality depend not only on the performance of the service providers’ employees (teachers), but also on the performance of the consumer (Students) (Philip & Hazlett 1997:262).


One more feature in the study of service literature is the reality that services are heterogeneous (Eiglier & Langeard 1977:33; Schneider & White 2004:8). On the one hand services are not mechanical and are only consistent and standardized up to a point, there may be immense change over time (Eiglier & Langear d 1977:42). The human aspect in the production and delivery of services may indicate that no two service experiences are the same, as people’s performance varies always (Czepiel et al. 1985:3; Schneider & White 2004:8). Various customers might have diverse demands that need to be met, or various service employees might go about meeting the similar customer demands somewhat different in a way (Schneider & White 2004:8). This relative heterogeneity can make it more complex to examine services and to measure the quality checks in advance to guarantee that the services meet identical standards (Schneider & White 2004:8).

One of the consequences of the heterogeneity of services is that services cannot be standardized in a production process and are as a result of labor concentrated (Anthony & Govindarajan 2000:621; Gaster & Squires 2003:7). An additional result of the reality is that all services cannot be executed in one “factory” and cannot be distributed to “warehouses” to be put up for sale is that most service organizations operate many units in different locations (Anthony & Govindarajan 2000:621).

It is recognized that because services are human oriented, quality improvement cannot be attained by alterations to production processes, and might take long time to be effective and might even more cost more would be in the case for physical goods. Here the focal point is on the employee and the way in which the service is delivered and perceived by the customer will depend on the employee.

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